Penrith campaign to end child detention

Date: Friday 8th January 2010
Derek working on his exhibition.
Derek working on his exhibition.

THE owner of Penrith’s Bluebell Bookshop, Derek Robinson, spent Christmas Day distributing books and puzzles to children held in detention centres as they and their families seek asylum in the UK.

He is supporting the Penrith-based campaign End Child Detention Now and will be hosting an exhibition at the shop to publicise the treatment the children receive, which he likens to prison.

Mr. Robinson, who visited children at Yarl’s Wood detention centre, near Bedford, said: “The Government holds frightened and traumatised babies, children and young people in the prison-like detention centre at Yarl’s Wood for weeks, and sometimes months. These children have committed no crime and neither have their parents. They have only exercised their legal right to claim asylum.

“I wanted to bring the very best books we could find, stories of other worlds beyond what they are enduring, of love, amazing imagination, freedom and excitement, a chance to escape for moments from their distress, into artful and wonderful illustrations.”

He is also backing a petition to cease the detention of children, which can be signed at the shop or accessed on-line at

Penrith-based novelist Clare Sambrook, a co-ordinator of End Child Detention Now, said: “Derek’s initiatives add to the terrific support this campaign already has in Cumbria. Hundreds of Cumbrians, including the Bishop of Carlisle and many other clergy and churchpeople, have signed the on-line petition. Dozens of people have written to MP David Maclean asking him to sign the parliamentary motion opposing the detention policy. He has written very supportive letters back. We hope that he’ll join the 105 MPs who’ve signed the motion.

Clare added: “The Government detains between 1,000 and 2,000 children every year in conditions that are proven to harm their mental health. NHS paediatricians and psychologists recently reported that children locked up in Yarl’s Wood are confused, fearful, unable to sleep, suffer headaches, tummy pains and weight loss and exhibit severe emotional and behavioural problems.

“The Government pursues its expensive and punitive policy of dawn raids and detention even though it admits there is no evidence that families are likely to abscond.”

The Royal Colleges of Paediatrics and Child Health, GPs and psychiatrists and the Faculty of Public Health have all condemned the Government for arresting and detaining asylum-seeking children, as have children’s authors including Jacqueline Wilson, Quentin Blake, Michael Rosen, Carol Ann Duffy, Michael Rosen and Michael Morpurgo.

Clare and friends in York started the citizens’ campaign End Child Detention Now, which has initiated two parliamentary motions and the on-line petition, which has so far attracted more than 3,000 names.